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2023 NRL season review: Standout stats

While the 2023 season ended in unfortunate circumstances, the Sharks were again among the competition's top performers in reaching the NRL finals for the eighth time in nine years.

With the dust now settled on the campaign and preparations for 2024 underway, a look back at the stats suggests Cronulla aren't far off being a heavyweight contender.

A regular-season record of 14 wins and 10 losses, good enough for a sixth-place finish in what was one of the most closely fought playoffs races in recent memory, earned the Sharks another home semi-final at PointsBet Stadium.

Craig Fitzgibbon's men ultimately fell to the Roosters by a solitary point, but there were plenty of signs the team can return to the top four and push for a title.

A host of individual and team statistics underlined the Sharks' potential:

Standout performers

Mulitalo soars into rarefied air 

Ronaldo Mulitalo has been a prolific try-scorer since his NRL debut in 2019, but the popular winger reached new heights last season.

Bagging 21 tries in 23 games, Mulitalo became just the second Shark to surpass 20 four-pointers in a season after Valentine Holmes (22 in 2018).

The 24-year-old ranked equal fourth for tries overall, not far behind Knights flyer Dominic Young at the top with 25.

Mulitalo also led the league for line breaks (33), demonstrating his elite ability to find space on the end of a backline shift or when returning a kick.

Brave Brailey involved in everything

Hooker Blayke Brailey was one of four Sharks to play all 25 games, with his tireless efforts in the middle against far bigger men making the feat all the more impressive.

Never one to shirk his task, he recorded the third-most tackles across the league with 1057 at a whopping average of 42.3 per game. The Storm's Harry Grant (1065) came in first ahead of Roosters forward Nat Butcher (1062).

Not just a defensive workhorse, the skilful Brailey recorded more ball receipts (2963) than anyone else as well as the fourth-most dummy-half runs (105).

Having also served up a career-best 10 try assists, it was no surprise that Brailey claimed the prestigious Porter-Gallen Medal as the team's standout player.

Nicho affirms standing among elite playmakers

It was always going to be tough to back up his amazing 2022 Dally M Medal-winning season, but halfback Nicho Hynes gave it a good crack.

Even with a calf injury sidelining him for the opening three rounds, Hynes didn't take long to find his mojo. He finished the year with 28 try assists in 21 games - the second most in the comp behind Warrior Shaun Johnson (29).

At an average of 1.3 try assists per match, Hynes boasted the best strike rate of anyone who played more than four games in 2023.

He also ranked second for line break assists (33) and line engagements (227) while racking up the fifth-most points (187) thanks to his accurate goalkicking.

Having earned another top-three Dally M Medal finish, Hynes is poised to propel the team to the next level as he enters his third season as a full-time No.7.

Rampaging centres, flying fullback

The Sharks can lay claim to the most damaging centre pairing in the NRL, with Siosifa Talakai ranking seventh for post-contact metres (1338m in 22 games) - fourth among backs - and Jesse Ramien in 15th (1144m in 25 games) last season.

Meanwhile, fullback Will Kennedy got the side rolling by eating up the second-most kick-return metres (1267m/66.7m per game) behind Penrith's Dylan Edwards.

Relentless attack

Finding the in-goal area wasn't a problem for Cronulla, ranking fourth with an average of 25.2 points per match including the finals series.

Elsewhere, they sat second for average line breaks (5.8 per game), run metres (1802.3 per game) and overall line engagements (629).

Acknowledgement of Country

Cronulla-Sutherland Sharks respect and honour the Traditional Custodians of the land and pay our respects to their Elders past, present and future. We acknowledge the stories, traditions and living cultures of Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples on the lands we meet, gather and play on.

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